Politics: Media treats Obama 'redistribution' video exactly as you'd expect

Published by: Dan Calabrese on Wednesday September 19th, 2012

Dan Calabrese

By DAN CALABRESE - 'Romney tries to change subject' declares the vaunted Fourth Estate.

You really didn't expect anything different, did you? Out comes a video of Obama declaring his belief in income redistribution, and the story is not what he said - or how his actual policies over the past four years reflect this still-very-real belief put into action - but rather a narrative about how it demonstrates Romney's desperation to change the subject from the video that really matters.

ABC News takes the prize for this headline and lead:

Romney Tries to Change the Subject

SALT LAKE CITY - Seeking to shift the attention away from a leaked video from a private fundraiser in which he said he doesn't have to worry about 47 percent of non-income tax paying Americans, Mitt Romney today sought to draw attention to a 1998 audio clip in which President Obama said he supports redistribution of wealth from "some" to "the others."

"The president's view is one of larger government, there's a tape that came out today where the president's saying he likes redistribution," said Romney during an interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto, the candidate's first interview since the leaked videos showed Romney referring to 47 percent of the American people who feel "entitled" and who are "dependent" on government.

In case you're wondering when they get to the part where they speculate over the damage to Obama's campaign, or quote unnamed political operatives speculating about who should take the blame for this latest Obama campaign flub . . . well, don't hold your breath. But they do offer this:

Romney used the audio to try and paint Obama as someone who supports the government taking "from some" to "give to the others," dubbing it an "entirely foreign concept."

Note the generous use of scare quotes, which is the journalist's way of alerting you to her own raised-eyebrow incredulity over what's being said. Three scare-quoted passages in one sentence. That's some piece of prose.

So you see how this works. Something comes out that can be portrayed as bad for Romney: "Romney scandal threatens to end his campaign!" Something comes out that is at least arguably bad for Obama: "Romney tries to change the subject from the scandal that is destroying him!"

I'd end on a hopeful note and tell you I don't think the media really influences the electorate all that much. But the truth is, while I don't think they are as influential as they clearly would like to be, I think they do influence a fair number of low-information voters who would fall in the category of independents that both candidates are trying to reach. To these folks, the candidate who seems to be struggling in a given news cycle does lose some points as a result - and yes, because the media always uses this power to help Democrats, it's a factor that makes it more difficult for Republicans to win.

I still believe, as I said yesterday, that Republican candidates can't win by trying to prevail in crafting the media narrative. They can only win by going over the media's heads directly to the voters. This is a perfect example of why. No matter what happens, the media will spin it as a negative reflection of Romney - and you can never change that. They are a de facto extension of the Obama campaign, so you might as well face that and run against them too.